The Making of Saint Maud, the Most Chilling Film of 2020 – AnOther Magazine

Posted: October 21, 2020 at 2:55 am


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October 20, 2020

When I can bring myself to watch horror, I find it incredibly rewarding, says Morfydd Clark, the Welsh actor and star of Saint Maud the most fiercely anticipated film of the genre to come out this year which has been picked up by A24 (Uncut Gems, Hereditary, Lady Bird, Moonlight and more). I find sad horrors very difficult, she continues, I watched Goodnight Mommy and it was just so sad as well as terrifying that I was like, I can only watch The Bogeyman from now on. Social horrors are the ones that really send me into a terrible spiral, in a way that makes me a better person.

Saint Maud, then, seems exactly the kind of film someone of Clarks disposition might steer away from. But shot mostly in a school in Islington with a mid-December stint in Scarborough, where the film is set Clarks first lead role explores the relationship between religion and mental health through the sometimes gruesome lens of horror. Having experienced a never-fully-explained trauma while working for the NHS, Clarks Maud becomes a private healthcare worker whose first patient is a celebrated former dancer called Amanda (Jennifer Ehle).

I was raised Christian and Im a pretty neurotic person, explains writer-director Rose Glass of the films genesis. Its only in the last few years that Ive started to think critically and with more self-awareness about both subjects and how they connect: Saint Maud is just what came naturally. Despite being a relative stranger before joining the project, Clark immediately identified with the themes in Glasss script. I have a lot of thoughts but I dont have stories in me, so reading it was like this is what Id write if I could write, she enthuses. Im not religious, but my dads been in and out of faith and Ive always found that interesting.

Mauds connection to God is born from her earlier professional distress, by the time she meets Amanda her religion is overwhelming her. From her modest appearance (the scraped back ponytail and modern tunic and trousers of an earlier scene are replaced with a low pony and more conservative uniform dress and wool tights when she arrives at Amandas) to her internal dialogue, everything she does either alludes to or is outright propelled by Him. This intensity similarly frames her behaviour and interactions with Amanda, who entertains her faith by asking questions, and later gifting Maud, my saviour, a William Blake book. Lines are inevitably blurred, and the pairs relationship ends after an uncomfortable scene at a party.

I'm interested in human behaviour and why we do the things we do, says Glass. I like finding out what makes people tick; the weirder the better. For Clark, the role meant looking inwards. I dont become someone else when Im acting at all, she says, instead searching for the parts of herself that relate to the role shes playing. Ive often felt that theres a parallel world where Im very lonely because Ive argued too much and havent apologised enough and thats something that chills my nightmares, so this idea of playing someone incredibly lonely is a particular horror of mine. Loosely in tandem with playing Maud were roles in Eternal Beauty and His Dark Materials Craig Roberts recent feature and the BBC One show respectively both of which saw Clark play women who were seen as not fitting in, and therefore seeming to be frightening or dangerous, and subsequently bled into the character.

In addition to examining her own behaviours, research fell on those around her; many family members are doctors or nurses. Growing up with someone who was being worked very hard in the NHS, I have been quite fascinated by how people did this work, she says. There were occasions where my mum was deeply affected by something at work, and I couldnt understand how she ever managed to compartmentalise. Reading Maud made sense because I was like yeah, if I was working in the health service without support, I would struggle hugely. Engaging with early feedback for the film, which had its world premiere at TIFF in 2019, Clark found others currently working in the sector concurred. They were glad they saw it but it was very painful, she says. Im so glad weve made a film that makes sense, but that it does ring true in some ways, thats been sad, to see that this horror is not far from peoples worlds who are doing the most important, most thankless work.

On set, any mental health concerns of her own were lifted by Ehle, who volunteered her care. I dont know if Id have been able to do it if it hadnt been with someone so lovely. Also Rose having the three of us together was really special. Three quite quiet introverted people who got to be quiet and introverted together. That the film was her debut lead (shes on screen throughout), Glasss debut feature, and a first for several other crew members created a productive and ultimately united atmosphere. This film was a big deal for a lot of us, agrees Glass, the personal stakes felt high and everyone threw themselves into it. Im aware its boring and nauseating to say how bloody nice everyone was, how much fun we had. But we really did and they really were.

Saint Maud is in cinemas now.

Originally posted here:
The Making of Saint Maud, the Most Chilling Film of 2020 - AnOther Magazine

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October 21st, 2020 at 2:55 am

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